Members of the Senate Committee on Police Affairs, led by Senator Igwe Paulinus Wagwu, promised not to witch-hunt anybody.
Wagwu (Ebonyi Central), with whom was Senator Hadi Sirika (Katsina North), met with Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi, who is also the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and the Rivers Commissioner of Police, Mbu Joseph Mbu.
Members also met with leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state and leaders of the pro-Amaechi Save Rivers Movement (SRM), whose Sunday rally was disrupted by the police with teargas and gunshots.
The panel met with Mbu at the police headquarters, Moscow Road, Port Harcourt. Amaechi received them at the Government House.
Mbu took the committee members to the Rivers State College of Arts and Science, Rumuola, where Abe was shot by the police with rubber bullets.
Mbu insisted that the policemen did not expend any ammunition at the rally, let alone shooting rubber bullets. He admitted directing his men to disperse the members of the SRM with teargas, claiming not to have given them permit for the inauguration.
The Supervising Minister of Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, was accused by Chief of Staff Government House, Tony Okocha and many allies of the NGF chairman as being behind the police’s action. He denied it.
The Ogoni Leaders of Thought at a news conference in Port Harcourt called for the immediate removal of Mbu – in line with the separate resolutions of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The Grassroots Development Initiative (GDI), which has Wike as the grand patron, while briefing reporters yesterday, raised the alarm over what it called a plan by Amaechi’s supporters to set ablaze the Obio/Akpor Local Government council secretariat. Okocha denied the claim as baseless.
The Obio/Akpor Local Government chapter of the GDI, co-ordinated by Collins Onunwo, declared that members of the group would resist any attempt by enemies of President Goodluck Jonathan and Wike, an indigene of Rumueprikom in Obio/Akpor Local Government, to cause the breakdown of law and order in Rivers state.
The committee’s chairman said his report would be presented for proper deliberation and resolution.
Wagwu said: “We are here in Rivers State to carry out fact-finding on the incident that happened last Sunday, where it was alleged that the police shot teargas and rubber bullets, which, incidentally, also affected Senator Magnus Abe.
“We have not concluded our investigation; when we finish, we will submit our report to the National Assembly for deliberation and resolution on the matter.”
Asked why the delay in the redeployment of Mbu, Wagwu said that the National Assembly had stated its position on the immediate deployment of the police commissioner, but expressed regrets that the matter involving Mbu was still in court and prayed that justice be done.
The Chief of Staff in the Government House, Chief Tony Okocha, told the Senate panel that the SRM, while on a sensitisation and mobilisation mission, wrote the police on its intention to organise a rally in support of the APC for the Obio-Akpor Local Government chapter.
He said: “On Saturday evening, being 11th January, 2014, I was at the premises of Rivers State College of Arts and Science, Rumuola, Port Harcourt, where the stage for the rally was set up and we expected that the following morning, being Sunday, the rally would hold, as planned by the SRM.
“On Sunday morning, as early as 6 am, my phone rang and the call said, the police, about five troopers, had besieged the premises and dismantled the canopies, chairs and tables arranged for the event while teargas was shot to disperse the crowd that morning.
“When I got to the venue, I saw a crowd of policemen, including three Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), and also saw how the venue was upturned by the police. It was not too long I met Senator Magnus Abe and the police continued the shooting of teargas and rubber bullets.
“One of the rubber bullets hit me on the left side of my leg and also touched Senator Abe. Right now, I cannot walk properly. Despite the police invasion, we were armless. When we saw that Senator Magnus Abe had been injured, we managed to put him into a vehicle that took him to the hospital for medical treatment before he was flown abroad.”
The Ogoni leaders condemned “in very strong terms” the assassination attempt on the life of one of their sons (Abe), which they said provoked a bitter reminder of the events of the recent past that led to the killing of their first generation leaders by the Nigerian state.
Ogoni leaders, from the four Ogoni local governments of the state, represented by Justice Peter Akere (rtd., Gokana Local Government), Dr. Eddie Wikina (Khana), Dr. Peter Medee (Tai) and Marcus Nle Eji (Eleme), said: “Ogoni people will not stand by and watch a repeat of such dastardly actions that threaten the life of an Ogoni person.
“We remind the Nigerian nation and indeed the wider world that the occupation of the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by a Niger Deltan is the product of the Ogoni struggle and blood for which we have no benefit, not even the implementation of the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) report on Ogoniland.
“In the event of continued acts of impunity, the Ogoni people will not hesitate to demand the vacation of the Nigeria Police from its territory. We demand an immediate investigation into the events leading to the near assassination of Distinguished Senator Magnus Ngei Abe.”